Understanding Pistanthrophobia and its ramifications on dating

By Esther Muhozi
On 28 December 2023 at 02:59

As a young adult, much like many others of my age, relationships play a significant part in my life, particularly the romantic ones. What most of us, myself included, didn’t realize or may still not be aware of is that the fear or phobia of getting hurt in a romantic relationship is, in fact, an anxiety disorder called Pistanthrophobia.

This situation has led many youths to opt for one-night stands, friends with benefits, or even abstain from dating altogether. Now, the question arises: How safe are these alternatives? I’ll leave it to you to ponder.

Pistanthrophobia is identified as the fear of being hurt in a romantic relationship, classified as a type of anxiety disorder characterized by persistent, irrational, and excessive fear. Individuals with phobias tend to avoid triggering situations or people to alleviate anxiety, even when there’s no real threat. These fears can disrupt daily routines, strain relationships, hinder work productivity, and diminish self-esteem.

Although there isn’t extensive research on Pistanthrophobia specifically, it falls under the category of specific phobias related to a particular situation or object. Those with this phobia often harbor a fear of getting hurt again, leading them to avoid entering new relationships as a defense mechanism against potential pain. However, avoiding relationships also means missing out on the positive aspects they can offer. This avoidance may hinder the chance to gain perspective or understanding from future relationships.

Similar to other phobias, Pistanthrophobia is often triggered by a past experience or a person. Negative encounters in past relationships, such as feeling hurt, betrayed, or rejected, can instill deep fear in individuals. Dr. Gail Saltz, an associate professor of psychiatry, notes that some people with this phobia may not have experienced a bad relationship but harbor anxiety, low self-esteem, and a fear of potential rejection or betrayal.

The aftermath of a traumatic relationship, marked by feelings of rejection, betrayal, hurt, sadness, and anger, contributes to the phobia.

My friend Acacia, aged 26, provides a real-life example. Having experienced two past relationships labeled as EXs, she has been single for two years. Her excuses are that in this generation it’s very hard to find true love, loyalty, someone to trust and dedicate yourself to, they always lie, or leave and the worst scenario breaks..

Acacia has faced advances from men, characterized by societal standards as "chic" with looks, wealth, and not lacking in character. Surprisingly, she has rejected them all, and upon reflection, it seems that Acacia, like many of us, may be grappling with this disorder. Do we recognize it? Can we overcome it? Should our past dictate our future?

In seeking answers, we turned to Acacia’s mother, Auntie Ruth, for guidance. According to her, such fears were not prevalent in their time.

Back then, love started with respect, and a man would express interest by taking a woman to his home. The progression from there often led to a family. The question remains: What should we do in the face of this modern-day struggle with fear of romantic involvement and love? Will this lead to Gamophobia, a fear of getting married or being involved in a committed relationship?